Bar-Ilan app can be life-saver in allergy emergencies

Many allergy patients, including children, neglect or forget to carry their medication with them at all times. This app can help.

Close up of a man using mobile smart phone (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Close up of a man using mobile smart phone
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Researchers have developed a smartphone application that can save the lives of highly allergic people during an emergency, using a patient-centric social network to enable delivery of emergency medication.
The app relies on fellow patients to help treat the medical emergency.
Millions of allergy sufferers are at high risk of going into anaphylactic shock that can cause death within minutes if they don’t take their epinephrine (Epipen), a pen-like auto-injector used to deliver life-saving medication.
Many allergy patients, including children, neglect or forget to carry their medication with them. In the case of sudden anaphylactic shock, these patients are completely dependent upon the arrival of emergency services and precious time is lost.
The new app was developed by Bar-Ilan University Prof. David G. Schwartz and doctoral students Michael Khalemsky and Michal Gaziel Yablowitz from the University’s School of Business Administration. Working together with Magen David Adom (MDA) and a team led by Dr. Eli Jaffe, the “EpiMada” app was recently launched and already has hundreds of registered users. Following the guidelines developed at Schwartz’s social intelligence lab, the app connects providers – who might be close enough to arrive significantly faster than an ambulance – with allergy patients.
Using proximity-based algorithms, much like that used by Gett Taxi – which connects customers via smartphone to the nearest available cab – MDA uses the app to dispatch a registered allergy patient to urgently help another patient in immediate need of an EpiPen. In Israel there are some 20,000 people with epinephrine auto injector prescriptions, and the number is on the rise.
“The potential of leveraging patients carrying the same medication to respond in emergencies is enormous,” stated Schwartz. “With hundreds of allergy sufferers signed on and more to follow, we hope that this initiative helps save crucial minutes to first epinephrine use.”
“Our preliminary research results show that allergy patients are highly motivated to give their personal Epipen to patientpeers in immediate need, something generally uncommon among total strangers,” said Yablowitz. The fact that Epimada is a downloadable and carefully monitored mobile community opens the door to exciting research into the behavior and benefits of emergency response communities.
The app is the first field test of the international Emergency Response Communities (ERC) initiative. Studies of patientbased emergency response for anaphylaxis are under way at Charité Hospital-Universitätsmediz in Berlin, and for opioid overdose reversal by sharing naloxone, at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Studies presenting the innovative ERC concept have been published in the scientific journals ACM Computing Surveys and Decision Support Systems.
Allergy patients with epinephrine prescriptions can apply to join the community by contacting MDA by telephone *6210 or online at [email protected]